Most business owners have had an employee claim that he didn’t know about a workplace policy. He may say that he didn’t know the dress code or that he needed to request vacation time in advance. Having human resource policies in place helps employees to know what is expected of them. There’s no guarantee your employees will read the policies, but if you have policies in writing and provide ongoing training to support them, you may not hear the “I didn’t know” excuse quite as often.

Scope of Human Resource Policies

The types of human resource policies you develop should cover the essential rules and guidelines you expect employees to follow. They should also reflect federal, state and local requirements for issues such as workplace diversity, preventing discrimination and harassment and leave for family or medical issues.

Once your human resource policies are developed, review them periodically to ensure they are up to date and that they reflect your business's needs.

Employee Diversity Policies

Most employers with 15 employees or more are required to follow federal laws that prohibit employer discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity and sexual orientation), national origin, age and disability. This is a good starting point, but many employers choose to go further.

For example, employers may develop workplace diversity policies that not only prohibit discrimination but affirm the value of a diverse workplace. These inclusive types of HR policies may include statements such as “we recruit, hire and promote employees based on merit and experience” and “we prohibit discrimination or harassment in any form.”

Employee Conduct Policies

The importance of human resource policies is readily apparent when it comes to developing policies around employee conduct. These policies cover a wide range of issues, including:

  • Punctuality and attendance.
  • Dress code.
  • Social media and phone use while at work.
  • Email and internet use while at work.

The consequences for not following these policies should also be clearly spelled out. For example, employees who don’t follow the dress code may receive a verbal warning and may be asked to go home and change.

Social media policies should address both using personal social media accounts while at work and policies for using your business's social media accounts. Email and internet use policies should address whether employees can access personal email during work hours or use the internet for nonwork purposes.

Employee Safety Policies

Workers are entitled to a safe and healthy workplace through federal law. Your human resource policies should reflect that, along with requirements for using safety gear or equipment and how employees should report any safety issues. Employee safety policies should also address how employees should report any accidents or incidents on the job.

Employee Compensation Policies

Having HR policies in writing about how and when employees are compensated can save you time and keep your employees happy. These policies should include information about:

  • Pay periods.
  • Pay dates.
  • Raises and advancement.
  • Overtime.
  • Meal breaks and rest breaks and whether those are paid or unpaid.

Your policies around employee overtime and break times should reflect federal overtime laws as well as any relevant laws in your state.

Policies for Time Off

Employees may need time off for a wide variety of reasons, including vacations, family emergencies or leave to have or adopt a child. Your HR policies should clearly spell out what types of time off your business offers, such as sick time, vacation time and/or personal time.

Your policies should also address family medical leave. Many businesses fall under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which guarantees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for medical reasons, including the birth of a child. Some companies offer more than the minimum requirements for family leave, such as allowing employees to take more than 12 weeks off without penalty or offering some amount of paid time off.

Your policies should address how soon time off should be requested, if applicable, and whom employees should contact if they are sick or if there is an emergency.